Weekly News 24 – 28 September 2018 | Mediterranean Affairs


Monday, 24 September 2018

Poland: The European Commission announced on Monday it was taking Poland to the European Union’s highest court over the Polish government’s changes to a law on the Supreme Court, which the Commission believes violates the independence of the judiciary. “The European Commission decided to refer Poland to the Court of Justice of the EU due to the violations of the principle of judicial independence created by the new Polish Law on the Supreme Court, and to ask the Court of Justice to order interim measures until it has issued a judgment on the case,” the Commission said in a statement. (Reuters)

Poland hit a milestone on Monday with its promotion to ‘developed market’ status in indices run by FTSE Russell, becoming the first country in Europe to make the step and the first country in the world to be awarded such an upgrade in almost a decade. (Financial Times)

Gaza: A 21-year-old Palestinian was killed and 20 were injured last night in the eastern part of the Gaza Strip in clashes with Israeli security forces along the border, according to health sources in the Strip. The Israeli military said that a drone opened fire on Palestinians who were firing armed kites towards Israel. (ANSAmed)

Syria: The Russian defense ministry said Monday that President Vladimir Putin will outfit the Syrian military with its sophisticated S-300 air defense system and jam radars of military planes striking from off the coast of the Mediterranean, in the wake of the downing of a Russian spy plane by Syrian air defenses during an Israeli strike last week (The Times of Israel)

Italy: Premier Giuseppe Conte’s cabinet on Monday approved a decree that brings together previous legislation on the issues of security and migrants. “I’m happy,” Interior Minister and Deputy Premier Matteo Salvini said via Twitter. “It is a step forward towards making Italy safer”. The leader of the rightwing League party said the package will stop the asylum requests of convicts and dangerous individuals. “Asylum seekers’ applications will be stopped in the case in which there is social dangerousness or a conviction at a first-instance trial,” Salvini told a news conference, adding that this mechanism was drafted with the help of “mediation and suggestions”. He said the part of the decree that foresees the revocation of citizenship for people convicted of terrorism felonies was “absolute good sense”. He also said that the government was aiming to “close all Roma camps by the end of the current parliamentary term”. The ‘Salvini decree’ on migration and security is made up of 42 articles. The first 16 in the draft that went into Monday’s cabinet meeting featured measures regarding the granting of residence permits, international protection status and citizenship. (ANSAmed)

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

France: France is not ready for now to allow the Mediterranean rescue ship Aquarius to dock and disembark dozens of migrants at the port of Marseille, France’s finance minister said on Tuesday. Ships were supposed to get docking access at the nearest port under European rules, said Le Maire, adding that Marseille was not the nearest. (Reuters)

Migration: France, Germany, Portugal and Spain have said they will accept migrants aboard the Aquarius rescue ship under a deal described as a “European solution” by French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe. His Cabinet colleague, Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire, had insisted that Malta handle disembarkation; under European rules, the ship was supposed to dock at the nearest port, in this case Malta. France has said it will take in 18 migrants, while Germany and Spain will each welcome 15, a French government source told the news agency AFP on Tuesday. Portugal said it will take 10 migrants, and added that it was still pushing for an “integrated, stable and definitive European solution.” In a parallel development, some 400 asylum seekers arrived in Greece’s main port of Piraeus on Tuesday from the overcrowded Moria migrant camp on Lesbos. The migrants, mainly from Syria, Afghanistan and African nations, were to be transferred to other camps and accommodation on the Greek mainland. Charities had slammed conditions at Moria, citing cases of sexual attack, deplorable sanitation and an increase in suicide attempts among camp residents. (Deutsche Welle)

Morocco: A Moroccan woman has died and three other people were left wounded after the country’s navy opened fire at a speedboat carrying migrants. The Moroccan interior ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that a naval unit operating in the Mediterranean was “forced” to fire on the boat because its Spanish driver “refused to obey” orders. The incident happened off the Moroccan locality of M’diq-Fnideq, official news agency MAP reported. (Al Jazeera)

Tunisia: unisian President Beji Caid Essebsi has announced the end of relations with Islamic party Ennhadha, a member of the national unity government coalition. ”There will be no more consensus between Caid Essebsi and Ennahdha”, said the head of State during an interview to private channel El Hiwar Ettounsi. He added that the decision came from Ennhadha. ”After five years of unity since the meeting in Paris, Ennahdha last week decided to end the collaboration, at its initiative”, said Rached Ghannouchi. ”We don’t agree anymore”, added the president. (ANSAmed)

Gaza: The Gaza economy is in a free fall with no viable solution on the horizon, the World Bank warned in a report it issued on Tuesday in advance of a top-level annual donor meeting on the sidelines of Thursday’s UN General Assembly session. Donor assistance, which is declining, can no longer halt the economic deterioration in Gaza and the West Bank, the World Bank said. (The Jerusalem Post)

Sweden: Sweden’s centre-left prime minister, Stefan Lofven, will have to stand down after losing the support of parliament. The anti-immigration Sweden Democrats (SD) backed the vote to remove him, weeks after a general election that delivered a hung parliament. Mr Lofven was opposed by 204 MPs, with 142 voting in favour. The parliamentary speaker will now propose a new prime minister, with centre-right leader Ulf Kristersson seen as the most likely candidate. Mr Lofven is expected to stay on as caretaker prime minister while his replacement is decided, in a process that could take weeks. (BBC news)

Spain: Former French prime minister Manuel Valls said on Tuesday he would run for mayor of Barcelona, the first time a high-profile European politician has entered a major election in another country and a risky political bid for him. Valls was born in Barcelona in 1962 to a Catalan father and Swiss-Italian mother but raised in France. He has spent all his political career in France – as a mayor, a member of the National Assembly, a minister and the head of the government. (Reuters)

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Turkey: Two security guards were martyred and two others were injured Wednesday in a PKK terror attack in the southeastern Sirnak province, according to a security source. An improvised explosive planted on a road by PKK terrorists in Sirnak’s Silopi district detonated, said the security source who asked not to be named due to restrictions on speaking to the media. (Anadolu)

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said a Turkish court, not politicians, will decide the fate of an American pastor whose detention on terrorism charges has hit relations between Ankara and Washington. (Reuters)

Turkish authorities detained 33 soldiers and six others for suspected links to the network of the U.S.-based cleric Ankara says orchestrated the 2016 attempted coup, state-run Anadolu news agency said on Wednesday. The detentions were part of a larger operation targeting suspected members of Gulen’s network within the navy, land and air forces, as well as the gendarmarie, Anadolu said. Another 28 soldiers and four other individuals have yet to be detained, it said. (Reuters)

France: French European Affairs Minister Nathalie Loiseau on Wednesday said Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini was behaving “like Pontius Pilate,” the Roman official who condemned Jesus Christ to death, over his position on migrants. (Reuters)

EU Enlargement: The referendum next Sunday in Macedonia on an agreement with Greece on the new name for the former Yugoslav country – ”North Macedonia” – will be monitored by some 10,500 observers. Private broadcaster Telma said that the great majority, or about 10,000, will be local observers from civic and social organizations while 500 will be foreign observers, in particular from Osce and various embassies. (ANSAmed)

Libya: Amid bloody clashes between militias that have been intermittently raging in the southern part of Tripoli, a new ceasefire has immediately led two groups to leave the capital. The two groups had attacked it by fighting against the position of Premier Fayez Al Sarraj, causing at least 115 victims and 560 wounded.
Although it is still unclear how long this second truce could last, French President Emmanuel Macron, from the UN General Assembly in New York, has stressed Paris’ position in favor of elections to be scheduled in Libya in December. ”Only this can accelerate the road towards a long-lasting solution”, the head of State said. ”The status quo is only producing gains for traffickers and terrorists”. However, the international community, as emerged in New York, currently does not see the conditions of stability necessary to hold correct elections. (ANSAmed)

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Tunisia: Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, on an official visit to Tunisia on Thursday, met with his counterpart there and confirmed “maximum common effort” between the countries on immigration, security, the fight against terrorism, and economic development. Italian Ambassador to Tunisia Lorenzo Fanara welcomed Salvini, along with Ezzedine El Amri, director-general for international cooperation at the Tunisian Interior Ministry. Salvini then met with Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi, who said “the friendship and close collaboration between Italy and Tunisia are a great resource that must be harnessed to continue to work at further diversification in areas of bilateral cooperation”. (ANSAmed)

Israel: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday described what he said was a secret atomic warehouse in Tehran and accused Europe of appeasing Iran as he sought to rally support for U.S. sanctions against the Islamic Republic. Addressing the United Nations General Assembly, Netanyahu showed an aerial photograph of the Iranian capital marked with a red arrow and pointed to what he said was a previously secret warehouse holding nuclear-related material. He argued this showed Iran still sought to obtain nuclear weapons, despite its 2015 agreement with world powers to curb its program in exchange for loosening of sanctions. (Reuters)

Future EU: Nationalism and a winner-take-all attitude are undermining the cohesion of Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday, two days after US President Donald Trump rejected globalism and touted ‘America First’ in a United Nations speech. Without naming Trump or his nationalist, protectionist approach, Merkel told fellow conservatives at an event of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Berlin that the European Union and Germany were facing a watershed moment. Trump has threatened to pull the United States out of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), potentially undermining one of the foundations of the modern global economy, which Washington was instrumental in creating. (EurActiv)

Friday, 28 September 2018

Romania: Romania’s constitutional court ruled Thursday (27 September) that gay couples should have the same family rights as heterosexuals, a judgment that runs counter to a referendum next month seeking to interdict gay marriage. The court said gay couples had the same rights to a private life and a family life as heterosexuals and thus should “benefit, in the long term, from legal… recognition of their rights and obligations”. The landmark ruling comes before a referendum planned for 6 and 7 October, seeking to restrict the constitutional definition of “family” to heterosexual, married couples. (Euractiv)

Italy: The Milan stock exchange suffered big losses and Italy’s bond spread shot up in early trading on Friday after the government said it would increase government spending and allow the deficit-to-GDP ratio to rise up to 2.4% next year. (ANSA)

European Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said Friday that debt makes nations poorer after the Italian government announced it would let its budget deficit rise significantly next year. “I want to continue dialogue with the Italian authorities, saying that respecting the rules is not for us, it’s for them, because when a country gets into debt, it makes itself poorer,” Moscovici told French TV network BFM. “If the Italian people continue to get into debt, what will happen? Interest rates will increase and servicing the debt will cost more.(ANSA)

Germany: Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany needed more evidence if it was to class the movement of U.S.-based cleric Fetullah Gulen, blamed by Turkey for the 2016 failed coup, as a “terrorist” organization as Ankara is demanding. Speaking at a Berlin news conference with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, Merkel also said Germany was seeking several individuals whose extradition on “terrorism” charges Turkey was demanding, but it was not certain that they were in Germany. “We take very seriously the evidence Turkey provided but we need more material if we are to classify it in the same way we have classified the (Kurdish) PKK,” she told reporters on Friday. (Reuters)

Yemen: The World Food Programme (WFP) has said there “very well could be” famine in remote areas of Yemen where the UN’s food agency does not have access, painting a bleak picture of the hunger crisis gripping the country. “Yemen is a disaster and I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel right now,” WFP’s Executive Director David Beasley told reporters at a closed briefing during the UN General Assembly in New York City on Thursday. The WFP has warned that Yemen is on the brink of a full-blown famine, with 18 million of its 29 million population food insecure, 8.4 million severely so. (Al Jazeera)